The next battle we are going to look at is the battle for money, and this battle affects us all. Old and young, single and married, rich and poor, we all face the battle for money. Now I know some of you will be cringing, and if it’s your first time here you are probably thinking, “Yep, just as I thought, the church wants my money.”
I actually have never spoken about money since becoming a pastor here, but let me start by assuring you that I don’t want your money, and God doesn’t need it!
Psalms 50:10 (ESV Strong's)
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.
I’m not trying to get your money today. I want to examine the spiritual battle for money we all face, and while some might get offended or threatened, I really want to set you free from the domination money has over you and your family. I want you to be a victor over money, not a victim of the battle for money and greed!
THE BATTLE FOR MONEY IS OPPOSING SPIRITS
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV Strong's)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Nowhere is the battle more deceptively covered up than in the area of money. Money is why we get up and go to work. It’s why we visit Centrelink. It’s why we go into debt to buy things that we don’t even know we don’t need. Money controls us, like it or not, and we think it’s normal!
Let’s play a word association game. In Matthew 6 Jesus explains spiritual matters using two contrast opposites… There are two kingdoms: earth or heaven; two realms: darkness or light; two masters: God or Satan.
So He contrasts opposites in Matthew 6:19-24, storing up treasures on earth and in heaven, light and darkness. Now if you were in the audience listening to Jesus, when He comes to talk about 2 Masters He says “You cannot serve both God and____________” You would expect him to say “God and Satan.” But Jesus surprises everyone when He says,
Matthew 6:24 (ESV Strong's)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
That word money in the Greek is MAMMON, and it means riches personified as a god.
Jesus is personifying money as a rival god. Jesus is making it unmistakably clear that mammon is not some impersonal medium of exchange. Money is a neutral medium, that can be used for good or for evil, but the spirit behind money is not neutral, it’s evil, a god opposed to the God we love and serve. That’s why money is a power that seeks to dominate us. Money is godlike. It is a substitute God. And, if we aren’t careful, it will rule and ruin our lives. In fact, it’s mostly winning this battle, even in the lives of Christians.
SHOW ME THE MONEY!
An oft misquoted verse says money is the root of all evil. It’s not… money is neutral, but,
1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
The love of money, the spirit behind the desire for money which is called mammon, that is the root of all kinds of evil.
Craig Blomberg, ''It is arguable that materialism is the single biggest competitor with authentic Christianity for the hearts and souls of millions including many in the church.''
Many people, even many in churches, are obsessed with money. They think about it, dream of what they could do with it, do things they don’t enjoy to get it and grasp it tight as much as possible. Some of these people are rich, but many poor people obsess about money they haven’t got more than most rich people obsess about money they have got!
Again, I’m not after your money today, I want you to be victorious in the battle for money, the battle we all fight, this god of mammon who desires to be worshipped.
SHOULD I SELL EVERYTHING AND BECOME A MONK?
Luke tells of an encounter between Jesus and a rich, young man. This man asks how to obtain eternal life, and says he has kept all of the rules and laws his whole life.
Luke 18:22-24 (ESV Strong's)
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
Jesus saw the real issue for this young man. It wasn’t that he had money, it was that money had him, and the spirit of mammon held his heart rather that God.
We don’t have to sell everything, take a vow of poverty and become monks! We simply need to see this battle for what it is, a spiritual battle, and we must overcome the god of mammon. Let’s familiarise ourselves with some of the fronts on which the battle for money is fought…
1. GREED AND SPENDING
The most obvious front is greed and spending money on what we want, and of course advertising is built on this spirit. If you’re a rev head, you’ll think nothing of spending money on car parts. If you sew, you’ll make sure you get good material. For me, I’m a tech guy, so I generally have pretty good computers, software, recording software and tech stuff.
None of this is wrong in essence, until the lust for things takes a hold of your heart. And the world loves to stimulate your obsessions. Today, if you click on a link for anything, the internet places a cookie on your device and suddenly you gets multitudes of ads for that item (almost like magic!). Jesus said,
Luke 12:15 (ESV Strong's)
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
I like nice things too, but I need to make sure I buy them only when God wants me to, and that my love for possessions don’t become obsessions, that mammon uses to control my life and finances.
Debt is one of the greatest fronts in the battle of money that we face. We go into debt to get what we want sooner instead of waiting to buy them outright, and of course retailers play on this greed constantly (24 months interest free!).
Proverbs 22:7 (ESV Strong's)
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
If you borrow money from anyone, you become their slave, it’s that simple. But is all debt bad? Here are 2 simple tests of debt in your life…
- Is the debt for an appreciating asset?
Going into debt for something that will go up in value is what experts call “good debt.” A house, investment or a business is an example. However, going into debt for something that depreciates is foolishness, because the asset goes down in value and you enslaved yourself to a loss. Cars, motorbikes, computers, furniture, holidays… these are consumer debts, and this is what is killing Australians right now.
According to the ABS, Australian’s personal debt is now the 4th highest in the world, at 212%. This means if an average Australian earns $80,000 a years, they spend $169,600 a year. The enemy is winning this battle in our nation!
- Can you sustain it? Going into debt for even good, important things will control you if you struggle to sustain it.
So even when purchasing a good, appreciating asset, we need not condemn ourselves to crippling repayments, or we will not have quality of life and we become slaves to the debt. Buy a house within your means and leave room to serve God with your money, and win the battle for money.
This week I had to pay a huge tax bill, and it’s has cleaned me out. But listen, if you live in this country, play by the rules. Tax minimisation is smart. Tax avoidance is illegal, and if you fail to honour God with your taxes, how can you expect Him to bless you with finances?
Romans 13:6-7 (ESV Strong's)
because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
If you live in this country, if you enjoy our roads, facilities and if you care for those who need social security, honour God and our nation by giving to Caesar what is Caesars. Pay tax and win the battle for money!
This part of the front is in sad shape! The vast majority of people live to their means and save nothing. I recognise for pensioners and many of us, saving is dfficult. But if you are to be set free from poverty and attain wealth, you must start to save.
Proverbs 21:20 (ESV Strong's)
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.
Don’t devour every cent you get, because that is an endless cycle you can never escape from. Even if it’s $10-20 a week, start small, be consistent and start saving. With the wonders of electronic banking, Fiona and I save a portion off the top every week… and don’t miss it!
When in debt, time is your enemy, but when saving, time is on your side. If you save $20 a week, in a year you will have over $1000. It all adds up.
Proverbs 13:11 (ESV Strong's)
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Oh no, we knew he’d get to this one! When I say tithe, you feel uncomfortable, and you get angry because you think I’m trying to take your hard earned money for the church. I understand this reaction, but let me show you a different perspective…
God is not trying to take 10% of your money. From my perspective, God is letting me keep 90% of the money He brings into my life! I’m an Optometrist, but I recognise that my income comes from the Lord! I can work hard and do my best, but God brings people into my practice, and God brings money in with them. I get to keep 90%!
To me, Tithing is not a burden, it’s giving God what is rightfully His anyway. I know that not everyone here gives a tithe to this church. If we had 50 or 60 families here who tithed on a poverty line income we would receive almost $5000 a week. We don’t. That’s ok, I’m not accusing anyone, and I’m not tracking it. But my experience and God’s challenge is to test Him in this, and He will open amazing financial blessing over your life. Frankly, if you’re not tithing, you are missing out on blessing, and hurting yourself financially… God challenges you like this…
Malachi 3:8-10 (ESV Strong's)
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
In my life I have proven again and again that financial blessing starts with giving God what is His anyway. But it doesn’t stop there.
Tithing, honouring the Lord with what is His anyway, is the baseline, prepares the soil and opens the door for blessing. I tithe to the church, but I believe what I give beyond our tithe is the seed sown that can yield an
abundant crop. A generous spirit opens the door to financial wealth…
Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV Strong's)
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
THE POVERTY MENTALITY
Most Australians, many Christians included, are infected with a poverty mentality. This mentality keeps you financially where you are. The signs of a poverty mentality according to secular sources include no ambition to improve or change, blaming the government or markets for your situation, being jealous of those with money, making decisions based on fear and loss, and focusing on what you don’t have rather than on what you do have.
Again, the source of this mentality in mammon, the love of money even if you don’t have it, which controls and makes you worship it as a god! But it sets up a mental stronghold that closes you down to any change. You’ll say, “I can’t do this, I can’t be generous, I can’t tithe, I can barely make it as it is.”
Proverbs 13:18 (ESV Strong's)
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
So if you are thinking this way, please put your preconceived thoughts aside and listen as I share some ideas that can and will change your financial situation and future. Here’s our warfare strategies to win the battle for money…
1. STOP BLAMING GOD, THE CHURCH OR OTHERS
If you are not happy with your financial situation, stop blaming the government or others who have more than you. Chances are they have taken risks you haven’t, worked harder or managed their money better than you.
Someone once asked me the difference between a musician and a mutual fund. It’s this. The mutual fund eventually matures and makes money! The first step in maturity is taking responsibility and not blaming others. Some here might even blame God…
Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.
Proverbs 19:3 (MSG)
People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed?
I’m about to lay out for you God’s strategy to win the battle for money. I challenge you to do it, because my experience is that God will never let you down, but don’t you dare be disobedient to God and then blame Him for the result!
2. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
So many live beyond their means, spending more than they earn. This is foolishness, and ultimately doomed. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it, or buy it second hand and cheap. When Fiona and I married, we lived in a rented house with second hand furniture. We never went out to dinner. We saved, and we got ahead, because we lived within our means. Be content, not lusting for more.
Philippians 4:11-12 (ESV Strong's)
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
You don’t need that new car, new sofa, new computer, new phone. You won’t die if you don’t get it. If you can afford it, by all means get it, but if not, be content. A designer coffee a day might only cost $5, but that’s $35 a week, and $1820 a year.
3. WORK HARD
Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Success in life, and in finances, most often involves work.
Proverbs 12:11 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
You might be classified unfit to work, but think of this from a spiritual point of view… why not work for the Lord if you can’t get paid employment. Help out, care for others, meet with them, bless them, take your eyes off yourself and love others. You may not be paid, but God sees it and He will provide incredibly if you work hard for Him.
4. GIVE FIRST FRUITS TO WIN THE BATTLE FOR MONEY
Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV Strong's)
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
If you want to honour God, do it first, before anything. How many know if you pay your bills, buy your supplies, food, a few cups of coffee, something for the kids, etc… If you do this then think about God with whatever is left over, you will not give God what is His.
The Hebrews gave God the first fruits because it is His anyway. The first amount went to God, and guess what… He increased their wealth! I choose to give my tithe first, before anything else comes out, because it’s God’s anyway in my mind.
I’m thinking of giving a first fruits offering to the Lord at the start of the new financial year. I know many people give a week’s wages at He start if the financial year, the first fruits of your income. If you decide to honour God, you have His promise of blessing. So my experience and my advice is, honour God first, and He opens all you need…
Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
5. HAVE A GENEROUS SPIRIT
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (ESV Strong's)
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If you believe you can’t afford to give God what is rightfully His, then I’m sad for you, because you will never be free from the god of mammon. If you are stingy and feel you can’t change, I’m sad for you, for you will never be free. A generous spirit is one God loves, and He honours and blesses generous people.
I am among the least paid pastors in the ACC. I work a secular job 4 days a week, and while a church this size should have 2 full time pastors, it has one part time pastor.
But if you go out to dinner with me, I am always the first to try and pay. If I see a need, I want to be the biggest giver to that need. Our church needs money to move, and I personally will commit to giving as much as possible to Ignite, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Why? Because in my experience, you can’t out give God.
A generous spirit breaks the power of the enemy in this battle. I want to have an open mind, and open hand, and an open bank account. Some of you have little money, so you give time, or meals or prayer. That’s still giving, if you’re cheerful, God loves it, and honours it.
If you are struggling financially, I want to challenge you to commit to doing finances God’s way, with a generous spirit and a faith that He will provide for you.
Luke 6:38 (ESV Strong's)
give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
If you face financial struggles right now, pray with me and say, “All that I am, all that I have it Yours, Lord!”